Tag Archives: Value

Money Trouble

When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities.
Acts 16:19 (NIV)

I’m writing this morning’s post in the airport. Having wrapped up a week-long business trip I’m headed home. I spent the week serving a client in the financial sector. As I meditate on all that I’ve done this week, the teams I’ve worked with, the managers I’ve mentored, a common theme has been money.

  • Agents leaving their jobs to go to another company to make more money.
  • A manager who told me she’s turned down multiple job offers, including one that promised to double her pay, because she was happy in her job and her father taught her that more money was a foolish reason to leave a job you loved.
  • A young man telling me about his job scrutinizing the flow of money for potential threats.
  • A manager struggling to find new hires because most applicants have such poor credit histories from the way they handle their money.
  •  An agent at a restaurant with his boss, an award he’d received for his exceptional customer service, looks at the menu and then asks how much money he could spend.

All these little moments come back to me as I think about today’s chapter. Until this point in the history of the early Jesus Movement the conflicts (and there has been a lot of conflict) have been theological in nature between the Jewish tribe from which the Jesus movement sprang, the orthodox Jews who viewed the Jesus movement as a threatening heresy, and the explosive growth of non-Jewish believers who had no interest in holding to Jewish traditions.

In yesterday’s post I mentioned that there had been an inflection point, and today’s chapter begins to hint at the differences that are beginning to emerge. Paul and his companion, Silas, are in the town of Philippi sharing the Message of Jesus. A conflict arises in which Paul and Silas are accosted, beaten, threatened, accused, and thrown into the local jail. The conflict wasn’t about theology, however, it was about money.

A young slave girl, possessed by an evil spirit, was a capable and profitable fortune-teller because of the presence of the evil spirit indwelling her. She was also so annoying that Paul commands the spirit to leave the girl in the name of Jesus. The spirit leaves. You’d think that this was a good thing, but not for the slave girl’s owners. No spirit, no fortune-telling. Paul and Silas, these out-of-town street preachers  had effectively screwed with the business and cash-flow of an upstanding member of the Philippi Chamber of Commerce.

You want to stir up trouble for yourself? Visit a strange town and mess with a local businessman’s cash-flow. As my week conducting business with my client reminds me this morning it’s always about money.

I sit this morning amidst the hustle and bustle of business travelers scurrying about in a major international airport. I’m reminded that Jesus said more about money than almost anything else. He used stories of money in parables because he knew that everyone could relate. He compared the spiritual desire we should have for the Kingdom of God to the frantic search of a poor woman for her lost savings. And of course, there’s that uncomfortable bit Jesus had to say about money being the number one thing that distracts us from that which is of eternal value.

This week as I sat in mentoring sessions with managers and supervisors, I found it fascinating that most of them came to our sessions with things that they wanted to talk with me about. For one it was the break-up of a long-term relationship, for another it was managing conflict within a personal relationship, and for another it was about a struggle to remain sober. Funny, the things with which they were ultimately concerned were not about business leadership and finance, though we did talk about those things. What they were frantic about was not about money, but about life and relationships and matters of Spirit.

Me too.

It’s been a good business trip, but now I’m headed…

Home, where my thoughts escapin’
Home, where my music’s playin’
Home, where m’love lies waiting silently for me.

Have a good weekend, my friend.

Casing the Joint

Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the Lord Almighty: The time will surely come when everything in your palace, and all that your predecessors have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon.Nothing will be left, says the Lord.
Isaiah 39:5-6 (NIV)

Over the past handful of years, I’ve twice had the experience of being robbed. Thieves broke into our house at the lake and took a lot of things with them. Then my hotel room was robbed while on a business trip and the thieves got away with a lot of my electronic gear.

I learned in being robbed that some things are easily replaced. Televisions, computers, and electronic gear can be quickly acquired, set up and functioning as normal. The things that I still think about are personal items with sentimental value; The things that can’t be quantified for your insurance company.

As I read in today’s chapter about Hezekiah showing the Babylonian envoys all the treasures of his kingdom, I just knew in my gut that this was not going to end well. Perhaps being victimized has made me a tad more cynical, but I didn’t need Isaiah’s prophetic word to know the dudes were essentially casing the joint.

I’m reminded this morning of Jesus words:

“Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.”

This morning I’m thinking about the difference between possessions and treasures. The further I get in my journey the greater desire I feel to rid myself of the former and be more discerning in my definition of the latter. I’m thinking it might be time for me to case my own joint, with an eye towards emptying what is unnecessary, unimportant, and not useful. One of the quotes that has stuck with me through adulthood comes from the artist and designer William Morris: “Do not have anything in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

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Valuing “Others”

…do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you.
Romans 11:18 (NIV)

Last week on my flight home from a business trip I encountered a group of Greek Orthodox students led by their priest. Their priest, with his impressively long black beard, was wearing traditional vestments including a long black robe, skullcap, and large wooden cross painted with the likeness of the crucified Jesus. Standing out like a sore thumb, the priest was joking in Greek with his students as they waited for the plane. They all seemed to be having a good time.

I remember thinking to myself how much I would enjoy sitting down and having a conversation with the priest. A follower of Jesus, his branch of Christianity is much different than the one in which I was raised and in which I live and worship. I don’t think that should not alienate us from one another. Quite the opposite, we have much to learn from one another and our differences.

I am transported in memory this morning to a class I attended at a conservative Bible college for one semester after high school. My professor boastfully played a video tape of a debate he’d participated in on local television with a scholar from another denomination. Much like the Presidential debates we’ve been subject to of late, my prof was proud and confident while spouting his views. He took snide, insulting jabs at his mainline “opponent” and the debate escalated until it nearly ended up in blows. The professor smiled and laughed as he watched. He wanted us to see how his theology had, at least in his mind, won the day against his denominational rival. I remember feeling sick. Is this how Jesus wants us to think, feel, and act with a person who is, himself, a sincere follower of Jesus?

In today’s chapter, Paul makes it clear to the followers of Jesus in Rome that they are not to consider themselves superior to other branches of God’s family tree. And, in this word picture he’s not referring to other branches of Christianity but to the Jewish branches rooted in the same trunk. I think the spirit of Paul’s teaching was embodied (coincidentally, in the city of Rome) this past week when Pope Francis paid a visit to the the main Jewish synagogue there much in the same way as he’s visited our Orthodox branch (see featured image). If we as followers of Jesus are to not to consider ourselves superior to the Jewish branches of God’s family tree, how could my old college professor justify his antagonizing treatment of our fellow Jesus follower, no matter what his theology?

I  am thinking this morning of the diverse cross section of humanity I am privileged to know, to have known, and to consider friends. I am a a non-denominationalist at heart, but I know or have known friends who are Catholic, Orthodox, Jewish, Methodist, Muslim, Quaker, Baptist, Episcopal, Sikh, Hindu, Athiest, Agnostic, Presbyterian, and those are just a few off the top of my head. Despite our differences, my life is better and more full having known each one of them. I am reminded of Paul’s command to the followers of Jesus in Philippi:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves…

“Others” is not qualified, by the way. It is universal.

Treasure (in Black and White)

There is a mine for silver
    and a place where gold is refined.

People assault the flinty rock with their hands

    and lay bare the roots of the mountains.
They tunnel through the rock;
    their eyes see all its treasures.
They search the sources of the rivers
    and bring hidden things to light.

But where can wisdom be found?
    Where does understanding dwell?
Job 28:1, 9-12 (NIV)

I read the other day, and I’ve heard it said before, that younger generations are choosing to ignore black and white films. We live in a world of three dimensional, Ultra HD technology in which anything you can imagine in your mind can be visually generated by a computer. I can understand how masses of younger viewers would foolishly conclude that there is nothing for them in an old black and white movie. I suppose the same masses would find no value worthy of their time in an epic poem about one man’s suffering rooted in the depths of history and carried through the ages by oral tradition and religious scribes.

In today’s chapter, that epic poem reaches an interlude which asks a simple question: Humanity will search the depths of the earth for gold and treasure, but where do you mine for wisdom?

This made me think of a classic movie filmed in black and white. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is a 1948 film starring Humphrey Bogart and it tells the story of two American men, down on their luck, who go prospecting for gold in the mountains of Mexico. The men find their gold, but begin to lose their wits and their souls in the process. In the end the gold is lost, but the men may just have gained a treasure of greater weight in wisdom.

This morning, I’m thinking about that which we value as compared to that which is treasure of real worth. I’m thinking about the treasure of an ancient, epic poem, the treasure of an out-of-fashion black and white film, and the treasure of wisdom. Wisdom, our interlude reminds us, is not mined in the depths of the earth like the precious metals we value, but is found in the depths of our valuable and precious suffering.